The Farmer & the {Florist} Interview: Re-connecting with Ariella Chezar

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Ariella Chezar has inspired flower lovers and floral designers around the world with her organic, seasonally-focused approach to floral design.

In addition to designing spectacular events and weddings, Ariella teaches floral design at workshops and retreats across the globe and grows seasonal blooms on her farm in upstate New York.

The author of three gorgeous books, Ariella’s 2002 title Flowers for the Table was considered pioneering in its approach to floral design. Perhaps more than almost any other, this book opened my eyes to the beauty of natural and seasonally-focused floral design. More than 10 years later, Ariella released The Flower Workshop in 2016 which showcased gorgeous photos and recipes for her signature floral designs. Her newest book is another feast for the eyes and soul. Seasonal Flower Arranging will be available from book sellers everywhere starting February 26, 2019.

Ariella has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement throughout my own floral journey. I was fortunate enough to attend one of her floral design workshops in 2013, and her philosophies and approach to color have greatly influenced my own design style.

I recently had a chance to sit down with my dear flower friend to chat about her recent travels, her new book and our mutual love of seasonal blooms. You’ll find an excerpt of our conversation below. I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dahlias by couch photo Ariella Chezar and Floret interview

Ariella workshop on Floret blogAriella workshop photo on Floret blogErin: I’ve so enjoyed seeing the gorgeous photos you’ve posted from your teaching travels in China, Mexico, The Netherlands and France. From these experiences, I’m really curious to know how you perceive the local and seasonal flower movement in other regions of the world. Did you have much difficulty sourcing flowers locally for your workshops?

Ariella: I choose locations where the local flowers are the stars. Pretty much everywhere you go there are always out of season flowers available, but I pay them very little attention and focus on the seasonal flowers because they are always the most vital. That being said, I have found myself challenged by my ethos when I am in a place where the season isn’t totally clear. When I was in China, I remember thinking- What season? Whose season? Where am I!? In the end, it was the produce that guided me more than the flowers, and the final table I designed was predominantly focused on produce.

Pretty much everywhere I’ve been, the imports are still the lusted after starlets, and I have done my best to ignore them. In Mexico particularly, Dutch flowers feel utterly out of place.

Citrus flowers and cobalt blue tableclothErin: Were there any interesting flowers that you discovered or re-discovered on a recent trip?  

Ariella: One of my happiest moments was finding mountains pansies in Mexico City last January. I had intended to go in a totally different direction, and when I saw those, they became the stars. This past fall at Flower House Mexico City, I saw a yellow amaranth that blew me away. The funny thing is, I am not an amaranth fan by a long shot, but this was different!

Whenever I go to Holland I find new and exceptional varieties. It was there that I first spotted martagon lilies three years ago, and last year I saw calanthe orchids which I had never seen before. And tulips! It’s heaven, really every time I go.

Erin: Any new floral materials you’ve found that have made you say, “I have got to try to grow this at the farm!”

Ariella: Nothing new, particularly, just new varieties. Suffice it to say I want almost every Itoh hybrid peony- and I want thousands of them!

ariella

Erin: I’d love to hear the latest about your farm, Zonneveld, in upstate New York. At the time of our previous blog interview, you were still in the beginning stages of getting the farm set up for flower production. How has your farm operation grown and evolved over the past few years?  

Ariella: Lets just say I’m learning a little more every year (hearty laugh). My biggest frustration is that the farm is but one piece of a pretty full and varied schedule, and as such, it never gets the time and attention it deserves. It also happens to be one of my favorite places to be, and I never feel I’m there as much as I’d like to be.

The successes feel monumental and sadly, so do the failures! Perennials are my best investment, though keeping them weeded is a constant challenge. The peonies are doing great, as are narcissus, hellebores and all the woodies. The dahlias have been great and many of the annuals as well. The dalmation peach digitalis never lets me down!

I am working on plans to build a studio at the farm- aiming to be completed this fall. Once I am at the farm full time, it will be much easier to give it the attention it demands- and I am deeply excited for that. I literally can’t wait to create a place where people can study at the farm with me and with other teachers, as collaboration is hands down where it’s at.

Floret and Ariella ChezarErin: What flowers have you found grow really well for you in your climate? What are a few of your favorite spring and summer blooms from your garden?

Ariella: Sweet peas! I had one glorious first year and then the last two were a bust. I’m planning for success again this year! I sure love the Sahara rudbeckia and Senior’s Hope dahlia.

Floret and Ariella Chezar InterviewErin: From a floral designer’s perspective, what flowers and foliage do you recommend that flower farmers grow this season? What about color palettes?

Ariella: I keep meaning to plant Stephanandra incisa versus snipping it from others. It gets such great autumn color and has fantastic, arching gestures. I’m also mad for wild raspberry foliage.

In general, palettes in-between muddy tones still reign supreme as they have such a magical ability to blend colors.

Erin: What are the flowers you can never seem to get enough of when you need them for your weddings, workshops and other events?

Ariella: I’m pretty sure my list isn’t very different from everyone else’s:

Fritillaria
Narcissus
Tulips
Pansies
Hellebore
Digitalis
Poppies
Peonies
Sweet peas
Dahlias
Rudbeckia
Cosmos (though I abhor harvesting them- so stressful!)
Japanese anemones
Some Lisianthus
Antique Chrysanthemums

Seasonal Flower Arranging by Ariella ChezarErin: Ok, let’s talk about your new book, Seasonal Flower Arranging, which comes out February 26th. I know now much hard work, time and effort goes into writing, photographing and editing a book, and this is truly a work of art. Congratulations on such a stunning creation!

Ariella: Thank you!

Erin: One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the inclusion of your lists of favorite trees, shrubs, flowers and foliage used in your designs. In fact, I already noted a few cultivars that I would love to add to my collection. In addition to including a focus on using seasonal flowers from your cutting garden, what are other ways this book is different than your past two books?

Ariella: I would say it is geared more to the flower enthusiast versus the professional. It’s for someone who shops a farmers market and wants thoughts on what do do with the juicy bunches they can find there. It also reiterates my thoughts on color and form, and it encourages people to find seasonal beauties versus imports.

Ariella Workshop on Floret BlogErin: Finally, I’d love to learn what’s next for you. Any other books, workshops or online courses in your future?

Ariella: Online courses, assorted workshops and a new teaching studio where a variety of flower and food classes will be offered from a variety of teachers.

Erin: Sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for taking the time to catch up with me today, Ariella. I hope our paths cross again soon. 

To celebrate the release of Ariella Chezar’s new book and the 5th Anniversary of The Farmer & the {Florist} Interview series, I’m giving away three copies of Seasonal Flower Arranging

For a chance to win a copy, simply post a comment below. In your comment, please share your favorite flower arrangement to give–or to get.  The deadline for entries is Friday, February 22nd.  

Please note: If your comment doesn’t show up right away, sit tight, we have a spam filter that requires we approve most comments before they are published.

Ariella design on Floret blogSee more of Ariella Chezar’s beautiful work with seasonal flowers:

2014 Farmer & the {Florist} Interview with Ariella Chezar

Floret at Ariella’s Chalk Hill Clematis Workshop Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

The Flower Workshop feature

Ariella Chezar Website

Ariella Chezar Instagram

Photos reprinted with permission from Seasonal Flower Arranging: Fill Your Home with Blooms, Branches, and Foraged Materials All Year Round by Ariella Chezar, copyright (c) 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photographs (c) 2018 by Erin Kunkel.



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